When Bonifacio was born, there was nothing spectacular about him, save that what he would eventually do for his people he lovingly called Haring Bayang Katagalugan. Through the years, he has been used as a propaganda of Marxism, a political tool by Quezon against Aguinaldo, a hero who would be pitted against another hero, Jose Rizal. But remove all these embellishments, and we have a man who was as normal and commonfolk as we all are and could be. His idea of progress encapsulated in the Tagalog word “ginhawa” still reverberates in our national consciousness.
We now know that he was not that poor as proletariat (Mabini was poorer than him), he was not that impatient and impulsive as portrayed in many monuments (the screaming Bonifacio stereotype), that to say that he was from Tondo doesn’t mean he was a goon or a political warlord, but simply lived in one of the most exciting economic quarter in the Spanish province of Manila that is, as a presenter in the Bonifacio 150 conference at UP would say, a hotbed for new and radical ideas. We know from historical records that his tactics in Manila (countering the accusations of the Magdalo faction that he was not a good strategist), although foiled, was still ingenious given that he was managing troops larger than that of Cavite. We also know that although he did not finish school, he was an avid reader, who read Victor Hugo, the biographies of American presidents, who was a fan of the ideas of Rizal embedded in the two Rizalian novels of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. It is safe to say that in the context of the entire Asian region, the idea that a colonized man, an indio can rise up and govern his country without the strength of world superpowers was not only inspired by Rizal—it was revolutionary in Asia at the time. He established a nationwide movement of Filipino revolutionaries he called KKK or Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, the first group of that nature in Asia.
Bonifacio’s death is still an issue of controversy, and that his death brought about by his fellow revolutionaries in Cavite only proves that the problems of the ‘social cancer’ written by Rizal is still true, and that even in the injustice done to him, the Filipino people still applauds him louder than Aguinaldo.
Gregoria de Jesus, who searched the mountains to look for his body, and Artemio Ricarte, including Macario Sakay, who continued his legacy even after the Biak-na-Bato pact. Only a heart like Bonifacio could set ablaze hearts like these heroics.
We honor the man, for who he really is. He believed that freedom, even if it is at a high cost, can be sought and achieved, despite the depravity of his nation. It is to this that tearfully, this historian acknowledge the giant that was Andres.
“Aling pag-ibig ang hihigit kaya, sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila… sa pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa. Wala na nga. Wala.”
Salud, Supremo! Maligayang ika-150ng kaarawan! The first president of the Filipino nation.
*The Andres Bonifacio bust by the great Filipino sculptor Guillermo Tolentino. Take note of Bonifacio’s name in Baybayin below the bust.
Maligayang Kaarawan, Supremo! :D